Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Changing from a Kid into a Musician (Thrilling Conclusion!)

Finally! A Saturday gig in Downtown Memphis! 

What could go wrong? I was at the top of my game. My solo acoustic act was well-polished. I was all set!

Unfortunately, so were the Tennessee Football Volunteers.

Yes, despite being 400 miles away at the extreme other end of the state, when the University of Tennessee’s football team was at 4 and 0 on their way to an undefeated season and a championship. Saturdays 4 to 7 was usually game time and, as popular as I might have been, the bar wanted to hear the game. Some patrons took up a collection and asked me to just take the money and sit down so they could turn up the TV!

I took the money and sat down!

During the second year in Memphis, I was travelling to my company’s headquarters in the Bay Area. 14 days away, 3 days home, repeat.

Of course I travelled with a guitar, practiced in hotel rooms and played open jams in bars around the east bay. But I would always arrange to have some jammers in my Memphis garage upon my re-arrival home for a weekend.

Yeah, we bought our first house in Memphis. And our second child was born in that house with the assistance of midwives. Memphis was great! But my company got eaten alive by Lockheed-Martin. So, I reconnected with the folks I worked with in Vegas. I would up getting relocated by a much larger company to the Cincinnati area (Northern Kentucky).

That is when I really started playing my ass off. Well, not 12-18 hours a day like 1980, but practicing and gigging a lot; both with bands and a solo acoustic act as well. And here I met with more success than ever before. This was mostly as a bass player in a prog-rock band. I didn’t have to sing, but the material was demanding. All the right gigs in all the right clubs, many fans.

There was success as an acoustic duet with a great singer friend of mine. There was success playing solo acoustic gigs too. There were a billion stories in only 5 years in Cincinnati. I got my PA system there. I finally replaced a bass (stolen while I lived in Vegas) while in Cincinnati. Great town! And I have the recordings and videos to prove it! But I had to go.

Unemployed again, music wasn’t feeding the babies. I moved to Asheville, North Carolina.

Immediately, music was happening! First as an acoustic guitar accompanist for a vocal duo (these girls could SING). We did the Belle Chere festival and others besides.

Then, a band formed among my roommates and myself. I was playing guitar almost all the time now, too. – and singing a lot.

But music wasn’t feeding the babies. Although I spent a couple of months framing custom homes in the mountains, I had to go.

I took a chance on a $900 per week Department of Defense tour as a bass player in a bluegrass/country swing band led by my old New York folk music buddy. For this, I packed up everything and drove a 15-year old station wagon to Los Angeles.

So, can we just skip the whole Los Angeles part? Suffice it to say, my move there fed the babies, although not through music. There is a LOT of money to be made in Cali doing political petitions in a Presidential election year. And I wound up being a de-facto producer for a singer songwriter. AND, in Los Angeles, I had my biggest single-day payday in music thus far (as a bass player, of course). But I had to go.

The same 15-year old wagon six months later had sprung a slow leak in the cooling system. I was putting in as much water as I was gas on the drive back East to Asheville. But I made it.

Job availability moved me from Asheville to Johnson City, Tennessee where I at least didn’t have to drive 1.5 hours each way to make $7.50 and hour. The post-9/11 economic “downturn” was in full effect. Despite a good tech resume, people at job fairs were literally laughing in my face!

Since 2001 I had been a waiter, a home improvements contractor, a barista, a sales goon, a custom home framer and now, a used furniture guy. In Johnson City, I got a lot of traction with my solo acoustic act and even got to play at the Down Home and other festivals and such. But I had to go.

I had an opportunity to conduct a job search in The Big City: Knoxville! And so it was. I regained a footing in my tech career and greatly expanded on my skills and experience. And music equipment!

Knoxville is the best music city I’ve ever lived in. My musical impulses have exploded since being here. Songwriting and bands and jams and various musical interactions in mighty abundance!

Also, now my beautiful wife Susan is also my bass player. I have retired from bass (except for you, Kenny…)

Shortly after I taught Susan the bass guitar basics, we moved into a BIG house about 20 miles outside of Knoxville. We set up a nice big studio room and started having some wailin’ parties and jams and such. This went on once a week for months. Through availability issues, time and attrition, it dwindled down to Susan and me and Myron, our drummer.

We three kept on getting together at least weekly and started to amass quite the repertoire for a 3-piece. We soon landed a weekly gig at a local bar, which lasted over 6 months and helped get us grooved in. Things built up from there and now we’re still making music. We’re branching into online video shows instead of bars just to see what happens.

I won’t be emailing you every day like this any more. Just wanted to give you a bit of history.

We are going to keep in touch regularly, though. We have new stuff waiting to release and big plans for live video shows and more.

Thanks for hangin’ with us!

-Tom